Maybe you’ve heard this story: A person calls 911 and when asked the nature of the emergency, the answer was that their order was wrong at the drive-thru!

There are some things that are considered an emergency and that is most definitely not one of them.

Definition of Bullying

Back in November, the Alberta government had a recorded discussion on bullying and one of the items that was brought up was an official definition of bullying. It was repeatedly stated that in order to be considered bullying, the behaviour is aggressive and features two things:

  1. an imbalance of power (real or perceived) and
  2. repetition

But something didn’t sit right with this definition and every instance where it was repeated bothered me. Maybe I didn’t like that aggressive and disrespectful behaviour has to be repeated in order to be considered an offence. Does the aggression have to be repeated on the same target more than once or twice – or can the aggressor spread out the misery and target many people once each? Does the aggression need to be repeated over a long period of time or can the escalation of aggression happen within a 10 minute window to qualify?

The imbalance of power seems easy enough to understand when you think of a big kid on the playground picking on the little kid, a group of popular teens making fun of the awkward teen or a boss to employee relationship – but there are other power-imbalances that aren’t that easy to distinguish. Maybe in a group of friends there is a pecking order and rather than be treated as an equal, someone is just barely tolerated as long as they’re willing to endure some abuse. Being excluded isn’t always bullying but what if the exclusion is the result of malicious gossip being told behind your back?


Perhaps bullying is too much of an umbrella term. It describes assault, lying, pettiness, rudeness, vindictiveness, poor-sportsmanship, sexism and more. Maybe there exists a spectrum of aggressive behaviour. It can be from one extreme of severe and frequent aggression down to minor and infrequent aggression. There will be a line of tolerable aggression and anything that goes above that line would be labeled bullying.

bullying defined

Of course, the tolerance line would vary depending on the individual.

When Ross Ellis of Stomp Out Bulling wrote about the Overuse of the Word “Bully”, she took somewhat of an insensitive approach. She labeled what many people have described as bullying to be “DRAMA” and warned that by crying wolf too many times, people who are really victims of bullying will get ignored.

But here’s the problem that I see: If people are facing unusually aggressive situations in scenarios that would not normally be aggressive, who do you bring this to? What are they supposed to do?

When the customer was asked why they didn’t talk to the manager of the fast-food restaurant when their order was messed up, the answer was they did but the manager said “I’m not dealing with you,” and walked away.

What Would You Do?


online poll by Opinion Stage